The design for the Parc de la Villette was selected from over 470 international competitors. The objectives of the competition were both to mark the vision of an era and to act upon the future economic and cultural development of a key area in Paris. As described in the competition, La Villette was not intended as a simple landscape replica; on the contrary, the brief for this “urban park for the 21st century” developed a complex program of cultural and entertainment facilities.
La Villette could be conceived of as one of the largest buildings ever constructed — a discontinuous building but a single structure nevertheless, overlapping the site’s existing features and articulating new activities. It opposes the landscape notion of Olmstead, widespread during the 19th century, that “in the park, the city is not supposed to exist.” Instead, it proposes a social and cultural park with activities that include workshops, gymnasium and bath facilities, playgrounds, exhibitions, concerts, science experiments, games and competitions, in addition to the Museum of Science and Technology and the City of Music on the site. At night during the summer, the broad playing fields become an open-air movie theater for 3,000 spectators. The park currently accommodates around eight million visitors a year.